The story: In last week's GOP primary debate, Vivek Ramaswamy advocated for halting Ukraine funding. When former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley pushed back, Ramaswamy retorted, "I wish you well in your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon," referencing major defense contractors.
He’s right: After exiting government, Haley took a lucrative position on the board of Boeing, a defense contractor. She also makes money from an advocacy group pushing for military action against Iran. Haley went from $1 million in debt to $12 million in income in six years. Notably, her husband is in the military.
The consensus: Haley and most GOP contenders, excluding Ramaswamy and possibly Ron DeSantis, follow the Washington, D.C., doctrine that foreign military intervention is a moral imperative — the same mindset that fueled U.S. entanglements in Afghanistan and Iraq. The defense industry thrives on this ideology and rewards politicians who champion it.
- What about DeSantis? Politicians deviating from this consensus face donor backlash, potentially jeopardizing their political futures. DeSantis likely walked back his Ukraine remarks to appease donors.
Why it matters: Former President Donald Trump broke with long-standing U.S. foreign policy consensus, avoidingnew wars, fostering peace deals, and pivoting approaches to free trade and China. Ramaswamy was the only candidate on the debate stage to parrot Trump's disruptor rhetoric. Like Trump, he doesn’t have megadonors to please.
- What about Americans? Ramaswamy's rise in the polls suggests that "America First" foreign policy resonates. Candidates who hold more establishment stances, such as Haley and Mike Pence, are increasingly at odds with Republican voters.